Tag Archives: Education

Building Blocks of Creativity

Long ago I read an interesting book that tried to teach how to actually engineer creativity. One of the simple methods it proposed was – take an existing device, and strip it of a main characteristic. A TV set without a screen, for example. Not good for anything you say? well, if you’re a real soap opera freak, frustrated that they always run when you’re driving back from work, you could imagine installing this in your car and listening to your TV while driving, rather than watching…

So let’s take an iPhone and strip it of its… phone. What do you get besides an eye? Siftables. Got this shared from Oren:

To me, seeing this makes my mind immediately run to how my kids could use it. This is surely a creative Human-Computer Interface, but does that automatically make the applications creative? see the one with the kid injecting characters into a scene played on TV. That’s great, but it’s really limited to the scenarios programmed into this app: the sun can rise, the tractor enters, the dog says hello to the cat – ok, got it. Now what?

My kids and I actually have a non-Siftables version of this, where we took some game that includes plastic blocks with various images on them, and turned it into a storytelling game. Each player stacks a bunch of these blocks and tries to tell a continuous story by picking a block and fitting it into a story he’s improvising as he goes along. That’s a real creative challenge, and it is so because you have nobody to rely on but your own imagination.

Another example is the Lego themed sets, non-creativewhere there’s really just one way to assemble them right, and imagination is out of the equation. As an educational tool, standard plain old Lego blocks are far superior. The less rules and options, the more creatively challenged we are, and the more a Siftables app follows that principle, the more educational it may actually become.

In any case, Siftables are a great idea, and will surely be a great challenge to the creativity of programmers of Siftables apps…

Oh yes! how true!

Joel Spolsky is back from his podcasts moonlighting and has an angry piece on:

…unbelievable proliferation of anecdotes disguised as science, self-professed experts writing about things they actually know nothing about, and amusing stories disguised as metaphors for how the world works…

I like reading Joel. He’s smart, humorous, and has excellent insights on the software industry. This post, like many others, indeed made me do the Oh-yes!-How-true! routine at first. It reminded me of an anecdote that Mosh, a colleague at work was telling, on how a respected investment bank newsletter was advising him just a few months ago to buy the solid but profitable Icelandic state bonds (luckily he didn’t). Yes, the economic big bang indeed demonstrated how experts may know nothing, at least in that field.

But something bothered me still. Joel went on to tell us that:

On Sunday Dave Winer [partially] defined “great blogging” as “people talking about things they know about, not just expressing opinions about things they are not experts in (nothing wrong with that, of course).” Can we get some more of that, please? Thanks.

I’ve read Dave’s post, and it’s a good one too. But asking myself where this definition put my own blogging, I had to send myself to shamefully stand in the corner, as I did sometimes express opinions about things I’m not an expert in. It was at that point that I realized this elitism stems from simple old school, centralized thinking on journalism. You see, blogging is a many-to-many medium, and you get to pick your reads. If that’s what you want, those sources are there, you just need to find them, Dave Winer mentions counter examples even in that same post.

Elitismo, by duka/Flickr

The new art of this medium, then, is picking those reads, and it’s no less than a skill for life in my eyes. If only my children’s computers teachers would teach them how to choose content sources, how to pick quality over noise, how to evaluate trustworthiness, rather than teaching how to google or use MS Powerpoint, I’d feel a lot more like they’re acquiring a skill for their the-web-is-like-air future life…